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How to make changes that last in 2011

My speech coach Doug Stevenson, (I highly recommend Doug for anyone who wants to learn how to give it a killer keynote speech), has written down some wonderful ideas for creating a changed 2011. Here are Doug's suggestions.

  1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Many of you reading this newsletter are a lot like me. You have dreams and aspirations to do great things, to make a difference, to help other people. You don’t want to settle for average so you set your goals a little (or a lot) beyond an easy reach. In setting out to achieve those goals, you have to do things that stretch you, challenge you and often scare you. You ask for a lot from life and in return, you are asked to do things that are uncomfortable. So you might as well get comfortable being uncomfortable. For you and me, uncomfortable is the new normal.

For example, Deborah and I decided to visit Bennett and Jessica in South Korea for Thanksgiving. Bennett is my stepson and a Captain in the Air Force, stationed at Osan Air Force base. My daughter-in-law, Jessica, teaches kindergarten on the base. Because we were travelling anyway, we sent out emails to all of our contacts in Korea and Japan to see if anyone was interested in hiring me to do a program. Two wonderful people in Japan said “yes”.

I presented a four-hour Story Theater workshop to 38 Japanese business people, most of whom spoke very little English. Luckily for me, an American living in Japan (who has followed my teachings for many years) agreed to be my translator. I have presented several times with simultaneous translation where the listeners wear headphones to hear the presentation in their language, but I had never presented with consecutive translation. I was going to speak three or four sentences, and then he was going to translate them into Japanese. The night before the presentation, and that morning, I was very uncomfortable! As I began the workshop, I realized that, because of having to stop for my translator to do his work, my timing was thrown off. Often, I couldn’t complete a full thought. It was no less uncomfortable, but by this time in my life, I was used to being uncomfortable. I relaxed into it, and got comfortable being uncomfortable. The workshop went great, and I had one more new experience under my belt!

  1. Jump out of an airplane. (Literally or metaphorically – you choose!)

I like to do things that scare me. Jumping out of a plane was one of those things on my list. So I signed up and on a sunny Saturday morning, I went out (up!) and did a tandem jump. I was right: it was scary. It scared me so much that on the way down, I puked all over my tandem guide, who was harnessed to my back. When I landed I was white as a sheet. It was a rough experience and I don’t ever plan to do it again. But I got to check that one off my list of scary things to do before I die.

Some of you are wondering why anyone would do such a thing. Some of you know exactly why. When you face your fears, you become more courageous. The more you do scary things, the less things scare you. When I began presenting that workshop in Tokyo, it was scary. But I had done scary things before. And compared to jumping out of a plane, the fear of presenting that workshop was really no big deal. The fear was still there, but it was familiar.

What are you afraid to do? Do it this year. Not someday in the future; do it in 2011.

  1. Invest in your personal development.

I only finished one year of college. That may be a surprising admission. I don’t have a Bachelors degree. Within a few weeks after leaving college, I enrolled in a Second City Improvisation class in my hometown of Chicago. That led to an acting class that I attended every week for 2 ½ years. And that led to a 13-year career as a professional actor in Hollywood. Even though I don’t have a college degree, I have never stopped studying. It was always something: dance, singing, carpentry, real estate, speaking, training, Internet marketing, webinars, and now I’m studying e-learning.

But for most of my life, I avoided studying myself. I avoided looking in the mirror and into my shadows to learn and understand why I was so co-dependent, why I was so stubborn, why I was having such a hard time maintaining a long-term relationship. In my late 30’s, I began seriously studying myself. I invested in my personal development. Six years later, and after many honest looks in the mirror, Deborah and I were married. At the time of my writing this article, we’ve been married for 16 years.

Until you take the time to learn about yourself, your ability to achieve and model greatness will be limited. Each of us is influenced by our upbringing. We may have inherited some pretty funky ideas from our parents. We may have been taught things that weren’t true; we probably made decisions based on our adolescent interpretations of what we were experiencing.

In 2011, take the time to enroll in some personal development classes –do some “touchy-feely” studying of yourself. This last year, I took a class on forgiveness, and it helped me to heal some issues I didn’t even know needed healing.

  1. Attempt something big.

Set a goal in 2011 that seems huge and daunting. And then get started. Take the first courageous step in moving towards accomplishing that dream. For years, I had talked about writing a book. Then one day I finally sat down and started writing it. It took me over 2 years to complete and self-publish the book that many of you have purchased and read. It started with a goal, a dream. Then there was the first step, followed by more steps, until it became a reality.

Do you want to post a video on You Tube? Do you want to speak at the Ted Conference or at a National Speakers Association conference? Do you want to write a book or create your first website? What do you want to accomplish? Think big. Dream big. Take the first step.

  1. Be worthy of a raise.

In order to get a raise or a promotion, or to raise your speaking fees, you’ve got to earn it. You’ve got to do the things that make you worthy of the raise, promotion or higher fee. You can’t wait around for someone to give you permission to be outstanding. You’ve got to stand out first.

Every person who has attended my Story Theater Retreat at the Peak View Studio in Colorado Springs, has said this one thing: “I have never worked so hard on an 8 minute story in my life. But now I understand why it’s necessary and how to do the work.”

Greatness doesn’t come easy. It takes focus, discipline and knowledge. You have to hang out with the people who know what you don’t know and are doing the things you want to do. You have to push yourself beyond complacency. You’ve got to earn the next level of success.

  1. Increase the power of your magnetism.

Every time you attempt something that is difficult or challenging, you get stronger. With each attempt, whether you succeed or fail, you learn and grow. It’s as if you are born with a magnet inside you and with every attempt, every victory, and every lesson learned, you increase the power of that magnet. Over time, your magnetism increases.

Conversely, every time you shy away from a challenge, procrastinate or pull back from an opportunity, your magnet loses some of its power.

As the New Year dawns, pay attention. Your spirit is constantly evolving to meet the challenges and opportunities of this new decade. You will have opportunities to get comfortable being uncomfortable. You will be inspired to do scary things. You will have revelations that require you to invest in your personal development. You will dream big dreams. You will hear the call of greatness and increase your power of magnetism. Everything will be the same and yet, nothing will be the same.

Be ready. Be responsive. Something wonderful is about to happen in your life. You are writing a new story. Your life is the message.

Until next time, your storytelling-in-business coach,

Doug Stevenson


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